Broadbent, Hydeia 1984–
Hydeia Broadbent 1984–
Hydeia Broadbent became known as a teenage AIDS activist. She contracted HIV at birth from her drug addicted biological mother and has battled the disease ever since with the help of her adopted parents, Patricia and Loren Broadbent. She began speaking publicly about the disease while assisting her mother’s activism, but eventually she overshadowed her own mother with her effective speaking style. Hydeia Broadbent traveled the country educating people of all ages about the dangers of AIDS and how to protect themselves from contracting it.
Hydeia Broadbent was born June 14, 1984 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her biological mother was a drug addict who abandoned her at the hospital just after she was born. Broadbent was then taken to a county-run temporary children’s facility called Child Haven until she could be placed in a foster home and eventually be adopted by a permanent family.
At six weeks old “Baby Girl Kelloggs,” as she was then called, was placed in the home of Patricia and Loren Broadbent. The Broadbents already had four adopted children: Kendall, an adult, Paige and Kimmie, who were teenagers, and Briana, who was only three years old. They had served as foster parents for numerous children, including other “drug babies” like Hydeia. Loren Broadbent worked as a glass contractor. Patricia Broadbent was a veteran social worker who had left that stressful line of work to become a supervisor for a printing plant. She was still active with children, however, serving as the unit director for Boys Club of America and executive director of Camp Fire Girls, as well as being a foster parent.
When Hydeia came to the Broadbents she weighed less than six pounds and was dressed in doll’s clothes because she was too small for infant wear. She had problems eating and often experienced crying fits, but the Broadbents did not find her problems unusual for a child born to a drug-addicted mother. The Broadbents took care of Hydeia until it was time to take her to an adoption fair to hopefully place her with a permanent family. Loren Broadbent was so distraught at the adoption fair over questions about Hydeia’s race that he decided the baby should stay with them where she was already loved. He was a white man married to a black woman and he was indignant that a baby’s race would affect her chances for adoption. Hydeia was named by Briana Broadbent who saw an episode of Sesame Street where a couple
Born on june 14, 1984, in Las Vegas, Nevada; adopted daughter of Loren and Patricia Broadbent.
Career: AIDS Activist, 1992–; co-author, You Can Get Past the Tears, 2000.
Awards: A Time for Heroes Award, Pediatric AIDS Foundation; Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major Award; Humanitarian Spirit Award, American Red Cross; Grandma’s House Award; Centers for Disease Control Award; Frederick Douglass Caring Award; AIDS Action Foundation Award; Disney’s Millenium Dreamers Award; Pedro Zamora Memorial Award for Youth Advocacy; Top Ten Female Role Models of the Year, Ms. Foundation, 1999; Essence Award, 1999.
Address: Office —Hydeia Broadbent Foundation, 7551 W. Sunset Boulevard, Suite 204, Hollywood, CA 90046 Phone: (323) 874-0883 Fax: (323) 876-5526, E-mail — [email protected] Website —www.hydeiabroadbentfoundation.org.
brought home a new baby. The television baby was given the Swahili name Hydeia (pronounced hie-DEE-uh) and Briana thought it would be a great name for her new baby sister.
As a baby Hydeia was chronically ill, more so than any other foster child the Broadbents had experienced. She caught the chicken pox several times, had numerous respiratory infections, and seemed to catch any cold with which she came into contact. She even became very sick from regular childhood immunizations. It was not until she was three years old that the Broadbents finally understood the cause of her chronic illnesses.
On New Year’s Day in 1988 the Broadbents heard a news story about a child who was believed to be the first Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) baby in Las Vegas. They did not think much about the story until they learned four months later than this child shared a biological mother with Hydeia. Upon hearing the news all of the Broadbents were tested for AIDS, but only Hydeia was diagnosed as having the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS. At that time very little was known about AIDS in general, and pediatric HIV/AIDS was almost unheard of. The Broadbents spoke with their family doctor as well as the Centers for Disease Control and were told that there were no treatments for Hydeia. The only AIDS drug at that time, AZT, was not yet available for children. The prognosis for Hydeia was that she might live to the age of five.
The Broadbents found the only known doctor in the area treating children with HIV/AIDS and they learned of three other children in Las Vegas with the disease. Patricia Broadbent joined forces with Diana Dowling, the adoptive mother of Hydeia’s HIV-positive half-brother, Michael, and Cindy Small, an adoptive mother of a boy with HIV named Tyler, to form a support group to deal with their children’s illness. By the time Hydeia was five years old she had full-blown AIDS and there had not been much progress with her medical treatment.
In 1989 Patricia Broadbent and Diana Dowling attended a National Pediatric AIDS conference in Los Angeles, California. There they were introduced to the nation’s leading experts in the field, Dr. James Oleske and Dr. Philip A. Pizzo of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). They also learned that their children were eligible to participate in clinical drug trials at NIH. In February of 1990 Hydeia and Patricia Broadbent traveled to the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland for the first time. Over the next several years they would experience the six-hour flight from Nevada to Maryland numerous times.
Hydeia was started on a drug therapy plan consisting of recombinant CD4 and ddl. She had regularly scheduled visits to NIH and she would also return there whenever she was very sick, which was quite often during the first few years of treatment. Her health care was coordinated by the NIH staff as well as by her family doctor in Las Vegas. “What I loved about the NIH staff was that everyone who dealt with Hydeia had the same information,” Patricia Broadbent wrote in You Get Past the Tears. “Decisions were group decisions that took into account the many facets of this complex disease.”
Hydeia and Patricia Broadbent spent long periods of time at NIH, away from the rest of the family. Their visits became easier when NIH opened the Children’s Inn in 1990, which gave them a more comfortable environment in which to live and also let them interact more regularly with other sick children and their families. Both Hydeia and Patricia had to learn the details of how to care for Hydeia so that they could manage by themselves back home. As Patricia Broadbent wrote in her book, “Having a child on protocol meant getting a crash course in what I’d call hard-core nursing.”
The Broadbents were very open about their child’s illness with Hydeia, their family and friends, and everyone else. They did not want Hydeia to grow up feeling ashamed about having AIDS. This was especially important because of her race. As Patricia Broadbent wrote, “Certainly being a little black girl with AIDS was not all that Hydeia was, but I knew she’d encounter people who wouldn’t look any further.” Not everyone was receptive to the news of Hydeia’s illness. In the 1980s AIDS was a disease to be feared as there were very few treatments and most people died from the disease. In addition, it had a negative image because it was associated with homosexuality and intravenous drug use. Although Hydeia had attended pre-school since she was six months old, the school refused to accept her after they learned she was HIV-positive. When Hydeia entered kindergarten, her teacher was very nervous about having her as a student. In one incident she sprayed bleach in Hydeia’s face after the child had sneezed. In response to these experiences, Patricia Broadbent, Diana Dowling, and Cindy Small started a non-profit organization called Reach Out, which stood for Relieving Every AIDS Child’s Hurt is Our Ultimate Task, dedicated to providing day care and schooling for HIV/AIDS children and their siblings.
In 1990 Hydeia was taken out of public school to be tutored at home. It was easier for her parents to monitor her medications when she was home. She had also missed a lot of school because of her frequent hospital visits and trips to NIH. Despite the fact that she was often seriously ill and she did not go to school like most other children her age, Hydeia was a very well adjusted child. She was outgoing and outspoken and would often sing songs that she would make up on the spot. She also wrote poetry. However, Hydeia was also exposed to more traumatic events than other children and in some ways she was quite mature for her age. In particular, Hydeia had to deal with the deaths of many of her friends at NIH and confront her own mortality at an early age. When she was eight years old she wrote a letter to one of her friends who had passed away stating, “I feel very sad. I feel that all my friends die.”
Hydeia’s development as an AIDS activist came naturally. Patricia Broadbent had been speaking about AIDS publicly in support of Reach Out for years and Hydeia would often accompany her mother to these talks. Often when her mother was speaking, Hydeia would pipe in to remind her mother to mention something important or to contribute her opinion. Soon Patricia Broadbent began letting Hydeia speak for herself. Her talents were recognized by a social worker at NIH who cast Hydeia in a pediatric AIDS educational video called Need a Friend. The video was seen by other AIDS activists who were moved by Hydeia’s powerful message and her fearless delivery. She soon began to participate in press conferences with Elizabeth Glaser, a co-founder of the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. “She really has an inner sense of the impact of her disease, and she’s able to relay that message to others,” Dr. Philip Pizzo told People magazine.
Hydeia has a no-nonsense approach to talking about AIDS. According to Graham Rayman of Newsday, she told a group of black church leaders, “My time is not going to be too long in coming, but until then I’m going to keep educating.” Her most notable performance came when she addressed the 1996 Republican National Convention. According to Jeffrey Scott of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Hydeia proclaimed, “I am the future, and I have AIDS.” Her activism has increased as she has gotten older and she has given speeches across the country. “If there’s one thing I can do with my life, it’s to help people see how AIDS is tearing apart the black community, tearing apart lives like mine,” Sam Bruchey of the Los Angeles Times quoted Hydeia as saying. Hydeia even put her words into action by convincing her parents to adopt another AIDS baby, Patricia, in 1992.
Through her public speaking Hydeia has met many celebrities, including Janet Jackson, Robin Williams, Barbara Streisand, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Whoopi Goldberg, Englebert Humperdinck, and Billy Ray Cyrus. She has also been featured on 20/20, the Jerry Springer Show, and a Nickelodeon special on AIDS hosted by Linda Ellerbee and featuring basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Her appearance on 20/20 brought her to the attention of Claire and William Milligant of Montgomery, Alabama who decided to fund an AIDS awareness and education foundation in Los Angeles and name it after Hydeia.
Despite the notoriety, the Broadbents have tried to provide a normal life for Hydeia. In the fall 1997 she was healthy enough to return to public school for the seventh grade. She went to high school at Odyssey Charter School where she was on the drill team and participated in a community service club and the bake team. Hydeia enjoyed normal teenage activities, such as bowling and going to the mall. She also regularly participated in summer camps for HIV/AIDS children and their siblings.
Although Hydeia has managed her illness well and has far surpassed her original prognosis, she has continually faced medical challenges. In the summer of 1992 AIDS began to infect her brain and she began taking the drug AZT to combat this. A few years later she discovered that AZT was severely damaging her muscles, so she switched to the newer medications called protease inhibitors. Balancing effective medications with their potentially dangerous side-effects will be a continual challenge for Hydeia.
In 2002 Hydeia turned 18 years old. While she is not sure what the future will hold for her, she has entertained the idea of becoming a chef. In the same year, Patricia and Hydeia Broadbent co-authored a book about their battle against AIDS with writer Patricia Romanowski entitled You Get Past the Tears. In the epilogue, Hydeia announced that she will continue to work as an AIDS activist. She wrote, “It is something I felt I needed to do, and until the virus disappears or there is a cure, it will always be something that I do.”
Broadbent, Patricia, Hydeia Broadbent, and Patricia Romanowski, You Get Past the Tears, Villard, 2000.
Atlanta Journal and Constitution, August 14, 1996, p. 1D.
Junior Scholastic, May 11, 1998, pp. 4-6.
Los Angeles Times, July 13, 1999, p. E1; March 11, 2001, p. B2.
Newsday, October 6, 1993, p. 4.
New York Times Up Front, January 21, 2002, p. 5.
People, August 26, 1996.
Publisher’s Weekly, February 4, 2002, p. 68.
Shawnee News-Star, December 19, 1997.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis), December 26, 2001, p. 1E.
Super Science, March, 1998, pp. 14-15.
USA Today, August 16, 1995, p. 1D.
Hydeia Broadbent Foundation, www.hydeiabroadbentfoundation.org
Take Our Daughters to Work, www.takeourdaughterstowork.org
To Tell the Truth, HIV+ Issue 10, www.aidsinfonyc.org/hivplus/issue10/features/truth.html
You Get Past the Tears, ABC News, www.abcnews.com
—Janet P. Stamatel
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